The Legend of the Lincoln Imp
by H. J. Kesson
Lincoln: J. W. Ruddock & Sons Ltd
To my friend
E. B. K. D.
First edition 1904
Reprinted 1907, 1911, 1919, 1922, 1923,
1925, 1927, 1930, 1935, 1939, 1941, 1944.
The Legend of the Lincoln Imp
The devil was in a good humour one day,
And let out his sprightly young demons to play.
One dived in the sea, and was not at all wet,
One jumped in a furnace: no scorch did he get;
One rode on a rainbow; one delved in the dirt;
One handled fork lightning, nor got any hurt;
One strode on the wind as he would on a steed,
And thus to old Lindum was carried with speed,
Where aldermen heard him conceitedly say
"There'll be, ere I leave it, the devil to pay."
"And now," says the Imp, "take me into the church;
"His lordship of Lindum I'll knock off his perch;
"I'll blow up the chapter, and blow up the dean;
"The canons I'll cannon right over the screen;
"I'll blow up the singers, bass, tenor, and boy;
"And the blower himself shall a blowing enjoy;
"The organist, too, shall right speedily find
"That I'll go one better in raising the wind;
"I'll blow out the windows, and blow out the lights,
"Tear vestments to tatters, put ritual to rights!
"And e'en the poor verger who comes in my road
"Will find"—vulgar Imp!—"he may likewise be blow'd."
Now the wind has his faults, but you'll find on the whole
If somewhat uncouth, he's an orthodox soul;
He wouldn't blow hard on a monarch, I ween,
Nor ruffle the robes of a bishop or dean;
And if for dissenters he cares not the least,
You won't catch him blowing up deacon or priest;
The man in the street he may rudely unrig,
But he snatches not judge's or barrister's wig.
When he enters a church, as the musical know,
'Tis only to make the sweet organ-pipes blow:
The toot on the "choir" or the "swell" or the "great,"
And hence at the Imp he was justly irate;
So in sorrowful anger he said to the elf,
"No! here I shall stop, you may go by yourself."
The impudent elf in derision replied,
"Such half-hearted folks are much better outside;
"To force you to enter I cannot, but see,
"Till I've finished my fun, you must wait here for me."
Then he entered the porch in an imp-ious way,
Declaring the nave should be spelt with a K;
He roamed through each transept, he strolled in each aisle,
Then he thought in the choir he would romp for a while.
As he passed 'neath the rood no obeisance he made;
No rev'rence at all to the altar he paid;
He thumbed all the canons' and choristers' books,
And cast on the saints his most insolent looks;
The chalice and patens were safe in a box,
He was stopped in the act of unpicking the locks.
He hacked at the lectern and chopped at the stalls;
The tapestry tore from the sanctified walls;
Incensed against incense, the thuribles he
Demolished; the candlesticks broke on his knee.
Then seeing some angels he cried, "Pretty things,
"A sackful of feathers I'll pluck from your wings
"To make me a couch when I'm tired of this joke,"
Ah! soon he was sorry that rudely he spoke;
For the tiniest angel, with amethyst eyes
And hair like spun gold, 'fore the altar did rise,
Pronouncing these words in a dignified tone
"O impious Imp, be ye turned into stone!"
So he was, as you'll see when to Lincoln you stray:
And the wind has been waiting outside till this day.
You can't see the wind, but no matter for that
Believe, or he'll rob you of cloak or of hat.
This moral, I trust, you'll deduce from my lay—
If ever you're minded the mischief to play.
Be sure that you're able the "needful" to find,
In other words, certain of "raising the wind";
And then, when you're bent upon "going the pace,"
Don't count on the wind, or I pity your case.
There are bikes at your service, and motors galore.
Steam, gas, and electric machines by the score;
Again, if for skittish amusement you search.
Don't meddle, I pray, with affairs of the church.
The puppets of politics—all will admit—
Are legitimate sport for exuberant wit;
But if ever a trick on the clergy you play,
You'll speedily find there's the "dickens to pay."
To angels—when met—be extremely polite,
Attentions too forward they'll keenly requite;
Don't ruffle their feathers; just let them alone.
Else, if you're converted, 'twill be into stone;
Don't chum with low people, unruly and bold.
And be left, when they've done with you, "out in the cold."
Don't be far too clever; but seek to be good,
And when you're at Lincoln behave as you should:
Step into the Minster the Imp to behold.
Who points to the truth of the tale that I've told.
So visit old Lindum, a city most rare;
Of course take a ticket, and pay the due fare!